McBEY, James

1883 - 1959

James McBay

James McBey was born at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 23 December 1883, son of James McBey and his wife Annie née Gillespie. Educated at the village school, and at the age of 15 became a clerk in a local bank. McBey attended evening classes at Gray's School of Art and taught himself etching on zinc plates using a domestic mangle to print the results. By 1910 he abandoned banking and spent the summer in the Netherlands where he viewed etchings by Rembrandt and etched 21 plates of his own. He travelled widely, visiting Europe, North Africa and America and his etchings were exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in London in 1911 and his prints were published in both London and Glasgow. In 1912 McBey travelled to Morocco with James Kerr Lawson (1862-1939) and began working in watercolours. In January 1916 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Printing & Stationery Service based in Rouen and whilst on leave he completed two series of sketches 'France at her Furnaces', showing the munition works at Harfleur and some views of the Somme. In 1929 McBey visited America and married in Manhattan, N.Y. on 13 March 1931, 25 year old Marguerite Huntsberry Loeb (30 April 1905-1999), a photographer and bookbinder from Philadelphia. In 1932 the couple bought a house near Tangier in Morocco and later bought a second property in Marrakesh. In 1933 he exhibited at the Ipswich Art Society from 1 Holland Park Avenue, London W.11 a watercolour 'Seville Gate, Carmona' and the couple were still living at this address in 1939. During the Second World War, McBey lived in America and in 1942 became an American citizen. After the war he returned to live in Tangier, whilst making regular trips to both Britain and the United States. He died in Tangier, Morocco on 1 December 1959 and his wife died in Kensington, London.